Stop the killing of elephants by decreasing the demand for their ivory

As we have reported many times, elephants are being annihilated for their tusks at an astonishing rate with no end to a rising death toll in sight. We know this from first-hand observations, our investigations into the deadly ivory trade and from the record numbers of ivory interdictions in 2011.

A recent investigative article in The New York Times, “Elephants Dying in Epic Frenzy as Ivory Fuels Wars and Profits,” by Jeffrey Gettleman, details how the slaughter is aided by poachers who have become more militarized and traffickers who have become more organized.  

An infographic accompanying Gettleman’s article maps out where most ivory is coming from in Africa and its likely destinations in Asia.

“The vast majority of the illegal ivory—experts say as much as 70 percent—is flowing to China, and though the Chinese have coveted ivory for centuries, never before have so many of them been able to afford it,” Gettleman writes.  “China’s economic boom has created a vast middle class, pushing the price of ivory to a stratospheric $1,000 per pound on the streets of Beijing.”

IFAW has been combatting the illegal ivory trade all along this deadly supply chain--from savannah and forest floor in Africa to mall shops in Beijing to computers logged into auction sites.

In March, a communications team from IFAW’s office in France confirmed that poachers had been butchering hundreds of elephants over a period of several weeks in BoubaNjida Park in Cameroon. The killing was met with indifference by the Cameroonian government until IFAW’s team alerted the worldwide media, compelling the government to send in the military to stop the rampant poaching.

As Céline Sissler-Bienvenu writes on’s blog, the poachers were insurgents who crossed the border from Sudan. The loot from selling poached tusks is presumed to go toward the purchase of military-grade weapons.

IFAW funds, equips and trains customs officials, law enforcement, park rangers and others who are responsible for stemming the flow of illegal ivory not only in Africa, but also in the Middle East, a key transit area for smugglers.

For example, IFAW funded a training program held at Botswana Police College in Botswana for wildlife law enforcement officers from 10 countries. INTERPOL conducted the workshop with assistance from Environment Canada. The training focused on fundamental law enforcement skills that became essential in the success of Operation WORTHY, a multinational INTERPOL-IFAW operation to combat elephant and rhino trafficking across Africa. IFAW provided funds used to purchase equipment for the operation.

INTERPOL conducted Operation WORTHY across 14 African countries in spring 2012. INTERPOL member countries made 214 arrests and seized 2 tons of contraband elephant ivory, 20 kilos of rhinoceros horn and 30 illegal firearms, mostly military-grade weapons.

The operation is just one piece in IFAW’s long-term plan for reducing the trafficking of ivory and rhinoceros horn in Africa and beyond.

Based on years of monitoring ivory markets in China, IFAW earlier this year published “Making a Killing: A 2011 Survey of Ivory Markets in China,” which highlights the devastating impact of the CITES-sanctioned stockpile sale of ivory to China. The sale stimulated market demand for ivory, enabling the legal market to provide cover for the illegal trade that is feeding the elephant poaching frenzy in Africa.

Backed by information provided by IFAW in “Making a Killing,” China’s Forestry Police raided the Chengtian Antique Mall near Beijing, where they found 107 pieces of illegal ivory and other products made from wildlife. Only 1 out of 22 shops had a license to sell ivory.

We’re also working hard on the demand side in China to dull the appetite for ivory with public service campaigns like our “Think Twice” campaign  at the new Kunming Changshui International Airport, which urges travelers not to buy products made from endangered animals. The campaign is a joint effort of IFAW, Chinese customs and CITES authorities.

We’ve been so successful in getting our message across in China, that Zhejiang Education Bureau adopted the big idea behind our “Mom I got teeth” public service campaign for the Chinese language portion of the National College Entrance Exams, taken annually by nearly 300,000 students in the Zhejiang province.

An IFAW study found 70 percent of Chinese consumers did not know that elephants were killed for ivory. The “Mom, I got teeth” campaign explains that ivory comes only from dead elephants and encourages people to reject ivory products.

On the Internet, where ivory sales are difficult to police, we’ve won, if not battles, many skirmishes. At IFAW’s urging, for example,, the largest Chinese language Internet search engine, removed more than 16,000 illegal wildlife trade listings, mainly ivory, and closed 24 online forums. Baidu later incorporated endangered species conservation into its corporate screening policy.

Watch this video to see how you’re helping on the frontline of elephant protection in Kenya.

Support our efforts to raise awareness of the plight of the African elephant by adding your name to IFAW’s “Say 'NO!' to Ivory” elephant march on Facebook.


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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Elsayed Ahmed Mohamed, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Dr. Joseph Okori
Regional Director, Southern Africa and Program Director, Landscape Conservation
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Pauline Verheij, Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Peter LaFontaine, Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Country Representative, Germany
Country Representative, Germany
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy